Instagram made headlines (including this one) when product chief Adam Mosseri said in June that the app “is no longer just a square photo-sharing app”, as it shifts its focus to shopping and video. But where does that leave photographers who want a social photo-sharing experience?
According to Tom Watson, a former product designer for Facebook and Pinterest, photographers have lacked a social network for a while. So, along with co-founder Stefan Borsje, Watson created Glass, a subscription-based iOS app designed to be a home for photographers.
“I’ve always had a passion for photography, and it was a sad moment for me when Flickr was bought by Yahoo. I love that kind of fearless photography community,” Watson told . It started picking up with Instagram to move into the mobile space. But I was on Facebook when Facebook bought Instagram, and you could see it would essentially be where it is today.”
For those of us accustomed to free, ad-supported social media, paying a monthly fee for an app may seem unfamiliar. It costs $4.99 per month (or $29.99 per year) to use Glass, but you can try it for 14 days at no charge. Still, the app grabs your App Store payment information quickly, so it can be a barrier to entry for those who worry they won’t remember to remove Glass before the trial period ends, should they continue. don’t want to keep But this model is intentional. Watson and Borsje in particular are trying to build their app — which has only five team members — without any venture funding or advertising revenue. They only want to answer to their community of photographers.
“I wanted to do something different and start with a social membership model and bootstrap without venture capital,” Watson said. “We’ve seen in the past what happens when you take on venture capital and go to the moon. You keep moving away from your photographer community to become more widespread.”
From the moment you open the Glass app, it’s clear that the emphasis is on photography itself. When you follow photographers, their posts will appear in a feed of images designed to reduce distractions. Photos take up the entire screen, and you can only see who posted them if you drag them to the right. When you click on an image, you can see its caption and other information about how the picture was shot. You can engage socially through comments, but not likes on photos—it’s a deliberate design choice, though Watson says some users are asking for a similar button, even if it’s for later browsing. Helps them bookmark images. In the coming weeks, Glass will launch search features like categories for photos. Glass also has a feedback board, which allows users to request features and upvote or downvote the views of other users. If Glass chooses to develop a suggestion, it is noted on the board as “in progress”.
While it’s only in its early stages, Glass already differentiates itself from Instagram or VSCO by offering EXIF data, which is like candy for the “photography nerds” that Glass hopes to attract. does. EXIF data shows which camera a photographer used, as well as the photo’s ISO, aperture, shutter speed, and focal length. This data and sense of community attracted people to Flickr’s early days, but when Yahoo gave free users a terabyte of data, it became more of a personal collection than a community. Then, when SmugMug bought Flickr from Yahoo in 2018, it tried to backpedal itself by only allowing free users to have 1000 photos, warning that they would lose photos of free users if they didn’t upgrade to a paid plan. can remove.
Glass also appeals to photographers by allowing a variety of image sizes on the app – the maximum aspect ratio is 16 x 9, which accommodates the size of standard camera photos. But on Instagram, even after the platform has moved away from its square image motif, it’s not possible to post vertical photos with most cameras without cropping them. Like VSCO, Glass doesn’t show how many followers each user has, although you can view comments. While you can’t see how many followers someone else has, you can see who’s following your account.
“We thought that was important for security. If someone follows you, you have to know who it is, and to be able to block them,” Watson said. Wanted to build interception and reporting facilities.”
Watson declined to share how many users have downloaded the app so far, but Watson said he is “extremely pleased with the response” to Glass. It launched in August with a waiting list, and on Wednesday the app opened to all iOS users. The goal of the waiting list was not to generate hype, but to ensure that the user experience remained smooth, and that the app was not overloaded. At the app’s waiting list launch in August, Watson told that Glass was sending out hundreds of invites every day.
“I’ve been on the Internet for a long time, and I felt like there was a comfortable, safe place,” Watson said. “I hope that with this membership model in place, these places can feel the same way again.”